A compromise reached for BlackBerry in India?

August 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

After reaching an agreement with the Saudi government, for RIM, manufacturer of BlackBerry smartphones, another deadline is approaching, set by the Indian government which has requested to have access to encrypted data, and more specifically to email traffic, being routed via the Blackberry platform.

Such a request, as well as those coming not only from Saudi Arabia, but also from the United Arab Emirates and from Indonesia, is based on not clearly specified criteria of national security, but RIM counters that it is not possible for them to grant access to selected governments, and that in any case this would not be feasible from a technical point of view, since as we know, data is encrypted according to an encoding key created not by the platform operator (that is, RIM), but by each single user, and RIM does not have a copy.

In order to find a compromise in this story, Research In Motion has proposed that it could create and lead a forum among operators in this field, in order to find a generally agreed solution, which can guarantee a government’s legitimate need for maintaining national security, trying not to harm the equally legitimate need that citizens have for their privacy.

At this stage, no details have been disclosed about who might attend this forum and when it may take place, but the BlackBerry manufacturers have expressed their support and will to cooperate with the Indian government in searching a common solution that does not hamper anyone’s needs, while specifying that an interruption of service would create problems not only under the communication point of view, but also of a commercial nature for Indian businesses; furthermore, the fact that RIM may be placing its servers in Indian territory to back local service does not mean that the government has automatic access to the data it is asking for.

Pentagon was under attack by hackers

August 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

pent

The Deputy Secretary of Defense of the U.S. has recently admitted that it is indeed true, as rumors that circulated within the security community already had it, that in 2008 the Pentagon was subject to an attack that has already been dubbed the most serious intrusion ever suffered by US military computers.

Apparently the incident was discovered, and its consequences put under control, only 14 months later, and this part is maybe even more worrying than the attack itself. According to what Deputy Secretary Lynn stated, the attack was originated by an USB drive connected to a military computer somewhere in the Middle East, by some non specified foreign spy.

Inside the USB drive was a malware that has been able to penetrate the Central Command network, and spread itself through systems which were hosting military secrets and contained sensitive data. Thanks to this code, acting as some sort of beachhead, the perpetrators of the attack have been able to transfer data towards their servers.

Fortunately, consequences of the attack were relatively limited, as the malware code, called “Agent BTZ” needs public Internet access to be fully functional, and the US Defense Intranet is fortunately using its own infrastructure. Had the code been working also via Intranet, consequences could have been disastrous.

According to some media speculation, there might be some Russian agent behind the attack, although this rumor has not been confirmed by any official source. What is sure is that, after this experience, the Pentagon has specifically banned its officials from using non secure USB drives, that is, drives without a specific certification that makes them suitable for military and government use.

A software to predict criminal behavior

August 26, 2010 Technology 1 Commento

The story narrated by Philip K. Dick in his Minority Report, which inspired a successful movie with Tom Cruise, seems to have come true, although a bit different, in Philadelphia and Baltimore. In fact, if in the movie police was employing some clairvoyants to predict murders and intervene a few instants before they could actually happen, in these US cities, police is using a software which can analyze the odds according to which a set of convicted criminals can give in to the temptation of committing new crimes.

This software is currently used to assess the opportunity for a stricter surveillance on detainees released on parole, to try as much as possible and prevent the risk that such detainees commit another violent crime. In the near future, police in Washington DC is hoping to adopt an updated version of this crime prevention software, developed by a research team at University of Pennsylvania, also to try and prevent lesser crimes.

Should this software prove efficient, it could be used not only to evaluate the level of surveillance necessary for a parolee, but also in court to establish the bail amount. So far, parole officers have been responsible for assessing the parolees’ progress during their parole period, and according to their judgment, along with the detainee’s criminal record, the surveillance level is set.

Thanks to this software, it will be a computer to make this decision, based on an algorithm developed by Professor Berk’s research group, which takes into account several variables ranging from criminal record to place of residence, which can expose him to a higher risk of becoming a killer.

A GPS navigator in your favorite supermarket

August 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

All those who use a portable GPS navigator, either integrated on a cellphone or a pocket one, know well that, when you find yourself inside a residential building or a complex such as a shopping mall, the navigation system would go mad and loses its accuracy, because naturally it is designed only to provide guidance on the road, not inside our homes or in a supermarket.

But today, thanks to a tool developed by the Washington State-based Point Inside, it is possible to use GPS navigation also indoors, at least if you are a customer of any point of the Meijer supermarket chain, based in the US Midwest.
In fact, from a cooperation between these two companies, an iPhone application is born, which will allow supermarket customers to navigate with extreme precision within the mall, to have an easier time looking for their favorite products and avoiding time wasting while wandering among the shelves.

This GPS application, called Find-It, is linked to a database of over 100 thousand items, and can provide guidance to its users towards the product they are looking for, by using a combination of signals from GPS satellite, mobile phone network and the one from the local WiFi network used inside the shops. Currently, Find-it is only available on 4 supermarkets from the Meijer chain, where it is being tested for any possible future development.

In the future, such an application could make its way out of shopping malls, to land in several other places where an assistance for orientation might be welcomed, for example in airports, especially the large international hubs where the less savvy traveler might easily get lost. Thanks to such an application, it could be much easier for them to find their way to the right boarding gate, with no risk to get lost… and to lose their flight!

GSM Interceptor, to listen to all cellphones around you

August 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For police and law enforcement forces, the opportunity of intercepting conversations travelling in the air over the cellular network is often vital during an investigation, as it allows them to gather intelligence and evidence that can lead to the capture of dangerous criminals, and most of all, can be used against them before a court of law.

Of course, the best way to pick up conversations is by being able to identify the suspect’s mobile phone, which is not always possible due to obvious security reasons, as coming out of the darkness and trying to provide our target with a spy mobile phone might be too risky and compromise the entire mission.

In such situations, the best way to move is by trying to identify the area where our target is moving, and start the action by using a passive telephone interception system.
For example, GSM Interceptor is a mobile phone eavesdropping device which can pick up every conversation taking place on a cellphone within 500 meters, and its presence can not be detected in any way by the network operator.

Thanks to it, it will be possible to monitor and store up to 200 different numbers, obtaining a recording of every phone call, as well as all information concerning the counterparty’s phone number, date, time and duration of call.
GSM Interceptor works by automatic scanning of all channels, and once it detects a channel where a conversation is going on, it would automatically start listening, displaying all identification numbers of the engaged handsets.

Those numbers are IMEI, that is, the one that uniquely identifies each and every handset, IMSI, the number assigned to the SIM card mounted inside the same handset, and TMSI, which is a number that is assigned by each single “cell” to a phone when it is within its coverage area. Thanks to the first two numbers, it will then be possible to locate and identify the phone belonging to your target, and at a later stage monitor his calls wherever he is.

The passive monitoring system GSM Interceptor is housed inside a comfortable suitcase, and can be taken along with you anywhere to monitor phone calls in the surrounding area, without looking suspicious; it just needs a 12V power to run, so you can even connect it to the cigarette lighter of your car for outdoor operations. It works with GSM networks, both encrypted and non encrypted, on 900 and 1800 MHz band.

For obvious reasons, due to the sensitive nature of this device, only law enforcement or governmental agencies can purchase and use GSM Interceptor. For more information on how this telephone interception system works, we recommend that you visit the Endoacustica website and contact our experts for detailed answers.

Three world records for the Zephyr UAS

August 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Zephyr, that is, the pilotless aircraft, powered by solar energy, which a while ago was launched by QinetiQ over the Arizona skies for an endurance test, after the end of its adventure is now the official holder of three world records in its category, and those records have just been ratified by the FAI (Fédération Aeronautique Internationale).

Specifically, we are talking about the absolute endurance record for an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) type aircraft, the endurance record in the category between 50 and 500 kilos, and the absolute altitude record, with a flight that reached a height of over 70000 feet, equivalent to roughly 21500 meters.

Zephyr is a HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) unmanned aircraft, designed to float at high altitudes for weeks or months in a row, in order to provide continuous monitoring on a specific area. This newly established endurance record, during a test flight on the Arizona desert, had it floating in the air for over 14 days, but in its designers’ intentions, this record should be easily outdone in the future.

This is made possible by its solar power, provided by solar cell panels placed on Zephyr’s wings, and thanks to an electric engine which would use less power than the amount actually harnessed by the solar panels, in order to gain a reserve of power to be used during the night to keep the vehicle in the air and provide power for its on-board systems.

Thanks to Zephyr, it will be possible to carry out aerial monitoring missions much more flexible than those currently done via satellites, and most of all, at a much lower cost, both in terms of launch and operation, and as far as normal maintenance is concerned.
Furthermore, thanks to the fact that it is powered by a renewable energy, Zephyr is perfectly compatible with the current trend oriented towards a new generation of drones, with no pilot and zero polluting emissions, in order to keep ground personnel safe during military missions, while keeping the air clean.

Apart from a strictly military reconnaissance usage, Zephyr can also be used in the telecommunication field, acting as some sort of “flying antenna” top reach areas where a radio or telephone coverage is not present, such as for example mountainous areas in Afghanistan, where ground troops may encounter difficulties in communicating with their base due to the particular morphology of the terrain.

Of course, its long endurance characteristics also make it suitable for a scientific usage for reconnaissance and aerial photography in areas of particular interest, or for a civilian usage in telecommunications, for example to restore phone connections with areas hit by a natural disaster, in order to guide rescuers towards the most severely affected points.

Are you carrying sensitive material? Use a secure suitcase

August 24, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Those who have been watching old spy movies certainly remember situations in which someone was supposed to carry a suitcase containing secret documents or cash, and was using a pair of handcuffs to tie it to his hands and keep it safe.

Fortunately times have changed, and even without taking in consideration the fact that such a protection would immediately generate unwanted attention, it would certainly be inconvenient, and not as safe as one may think. Nowadays, for such transports, it is easier to use a safety suitcase. The way a safety case looks like is no different from any other suitcase used to carry documents or so, but its secret lies not only in the double-coded locks, but most of all in the alarm that protects it.

In fact, should someone take the safety suitcase away, its hidden functions would allow you to easily thwart any attempt; for example, if it reaches a minimum distance from the person to whom it is entrusted, it would give out a loud alarm, which can last up to 48 consecutive hours, making it impossible to hide forever.

With its anti theft function, it is possible to activate the self defense mode even within a 50 meters distance. At this point, it would generate a 30000 Volt electric shockwave on the case body, so that anyone carrying it would be hit by a high voltage wave, and forced to immediately leave it, running away without it and without its contents.

To carry confidential documents of a military, diplomatic or business nature, or to move large amounts of cash, this safety case is certainly an effective and discreet protection. For more information, we recommend that you visit the Endoacustica website.

A fabric that also works as a battery

August 24, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has just come up with a special kind of batteries that can be woven inside the fabric that makes up our clothes, in order to use the fabric itself as a source of power for portable electronic devices such as a mobile phone, an MP3 player, or in the military field, to supply juice for those devices which are now a standard equipment for modern day soldiers.

Along with being embedded in the fabric, these batteries can be housed inside a container of any shape or size, thus using its outer shell as a source of energy. In their designers’ intentions, this battery clothing could be particularly useful for military personnel, who as we said are often carrying an array of electronic devices, whose weight and encumbrance are greatly increased by the battery packs used to power them.

The researchers’ job is based on a bacteriophage virus, harmless for humans, whose nucleus is coated by a layer of proteins, and which has been used as a model to create cathodes in a ferro-fluoric material. By combining these cathodes with the relevant anodes and electrolytes in the fabric, they created a battery which would lose only a fraction of its energy, and that can be recharged just like a normal one while reaching a performance of the same level.

This virus has also been produced at room temperature, thus greatly reducing the environmental footprint of the entire production process of these batteries. The material used is much less dangerous than the ones used when manufacturing common Li-ion batteries, as the lower heat generated consequently reduces the risk of flammability. Soldiers deployed in areas where temperatures may exceed 50 degrees will certainly be relieved at the idea of reducing their load and running less risks.

A digital video camera as small as a credit card

August 23, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Lately Kodak has been busy launching several new products, and seems to be heading in the direction of developing smaller and thinner cameras, as we can see with Playtouch, a pocket video camera with touch screen, and Easyshare, the thinnest optical zoom camera. Among these products, another very interestingone seems to be their new miniature video camera simply called Kodak Mini.

If under the point of view of technological innovation it does not sport any relevant new feature, the main characteristics are basically two. The first one is that it is a waterproof video camera, which you can take along with you in the swimming pool to quickly and easily shoot underwater videos and pictures.

The second characteristic is in its size. In fact, the new Kodak Mini is just 89 millimeters long, which allows its manufacturers to proudly boast that it is the first retail type video camera as big (or rather, as small) as a credit card.

Of course, it is thicker when compared to an actual credit card (not that much though, just 13 mm), but quite sure its tiny size makes it an interesting object for leisurely use. Thanks to the pop-out USB plug (as we have seen in the popular Flip series), all you need to do is press a button to connect your Kodak Mini to a computer and quickly download any images or videos.

The only imperfection one can complain about us the very small capacity of its built-in memory (a mere 128 Mb), although it is sold with a Micro SD 2 Gb memory card included in the price. All this with a 640×480 resolution and a reasonable 100-dollar price tag.

Here comes another robotic fish from Japan

August 23, 2010 Technology 1 Commento

In the last few months we have seen quite a lot of robotic fish, capable of swimming freely in the water (or at least, inside a bowl or aquarium), designed by research institutes for a wide range of possible purposes, ranging from monitoring of waters’ health all the way to behavioral studies on other (real) fish.

This latest example of robotic fish, produced in Japan by Sedensha, is capable of replicating the movements of a small fish in a pretty accurate way, thanks to its silicone body, which on the inside houses an equally small chip.

This chip is what actually determines the fish’s direction, y simply sending some very small electrostatic impulses to its flexible body, which in turn will respond to the stimulus by turning left or right, climbing up or heading down with a sinuous shake of its tail.

To make this motion more realistic and smooth, and avoid the typical “stop and go” movement that many of his peers sport, this cute micro robot’s body has been filled with silicone oil. By doing this, every shake of the tail is smoother and its movement is as realistic as it may get.

For now it is unknown how they are planning to use it, as it is just a prototype now, with a cute look thanks to the small eyes (not real, of course) mounted on the front, which give it a friendly demeanor, at least in the eyes of humans. If we were other fishes swimming in the same bowl with him, we would certainly wonder who this strange guy is, but it looks like no one asked the other fishes’ opinion!

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